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The policy environment for community forest management in Asia ranges from being supportive to absent to opposing. Where enabling policies do exist, local stakeholders often do not know their rights and responsibilities. Where such policies are absent or opposing, the challenge has been to gain recognition for continuing informal practices of forest access and management. This paper draws lessons from two regional programs - the Small Grants Programme for Operations to Promote Tropical Forests (SGP-PTF) and the Community Forest Management Support Programme for Southeast Asia (CFMSP). Combined, the two programmes supported 276 projects of community-based, nongovernment and government organizations in eight countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam) from 2001-2007. Both programmes supported stronger community voice in policy development through linkages between communities, local government and field-level line agencies, as well as supporting community bodies to take issues forward in wider policy discussions. The need to nest local efforts to manage the commons within supportive frameworks has been noted by key commons theorists; the challenge has been how to achieve this. These programmes’ experiences highlight that, with the right kind of support, community level bodies can develop and use linkages with each other, with local government and higher-level policy to strengthen governance and livelihoods.